Thursday, April 29, 2010

Selebi and his stuff

Today will be day number eight that I will spend seated on a hard wooden bench at the Joburg High Court watching our former chief of police give evidence in his own defence. I would rate banging your head against a wall, sticking pins in your eyes or having sulphuric acid squirted into one's armpits as more enjoyable, but hey - this is a job, and somebody has to do it. Somebody has to let the nation know what goes down in courtroom 4B, where the security guards stationed at the door make you sign in and take a stupid red tag on a lanyard with you into court so that you can hand it back to them when you leave again. Never mind that this trial has been ongoing for over 40 days already - stupid tags remain the order of the day.

The crowd of journos covering the trial has become like a small dysfunctional family, sharing intimate details of personal lives, squabbling over plug sockets for laptops, offering opinions on the body odour of the strange characters who cram in next to us on occasions when movement is limited to the length of your cable and the open space on another bench is just not an option for the hacks and knocking over each other's cups of coffee bought from the little extortion racket, I mean coffee shop across the road.
Yes - there have been fun moments. Like when Selebi has forgotten his politeness and revealed his arrogance and badness. Or when he mistook a documented R10 000 payment to "Clinton's Balustrades" for home repairs and admitted to having paid out R10 000 for his son Elton's matric farewell suit. Yip - classic slip I reckon, misreading 'Clinton' as 'Elton'. Claiming that you have no "alternative sources of income" to your R32 000 salary, and then letting slip that you sprung 10 gorilla's in cash for your kid's matric monkey suit! Oooopsie!!
Anyway - another day of court antics ahead. It has been intense. It has been boring. I have notebooks of information and can reliably tell you stuff like Selebi spent R197.05 at the Pick 'n Pay in Britz on March 1, 2005. Lots and lots and lots of facts like that.
But I won't.
It is for me to bring you only the exciting story, sifted out of the junk that is spewed over hours and hours of court proceedings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The bogus profit and bogus prophet

Another day at the Joburg High Court. All day long on a hard wooden bench. Yes, it is sometimes fun to watch prosecutor Gerrie Nel going at corruption accused Jackie Selebi like a Rottweiller, but even that loses its appeal after a few hours solid.
Today's highlight was Selebi admitting that he used his power as national police commissioner to declassify a secret police document just so that he could show it to his druglord mate Agliotti.
I suppose Selebi set the standard hey.
I found an amusing press release from one Captain Mnayadza Ralidzhivha (one of those moments where you give thanks that you are not a radio reporter because I would have some difficulty pronouncing his name). Captain Ralidzhivha is alarmed and wants to warn the Tembisa against a bogus prophet.
Apparently the bogus prophet targeted a 19-year-old woman in Esdangweni section by approaching her in the street, asking if she knew where he could find a salon.
Now I quote directly: "The whom she was walking with started to prophet the unknown. He told him of his secrets. He started also to prophet her. He also told her her secrets".
Scary stuff indeed.
And then the cunning prophet told the poor girl to put down her handbag and all her belongings and continue "to walk past 10 poles of electricity" without looking to the back or side. At the 10th pole she could then turn around and come back.
Surprisingly (or maybe not) when she got to the 10th pole of electricity and turned around, the prophet was gone. And so was all her stuff.
So let that be a warning to you people out there who let strangers pull psychic stunts on you. Or, as Captain Ralidzhivha puts it so unsuccinctly: "Never allow anybody to pray for you on the street. You know where to get the real prophet are than to meet an unknown people who will start to tell you stories. They know that there is nobody who does not have problems."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fun in Ventersdorp

Ventersdorp is a small town, forgotten in time. Black people are not allowed in the local church, they fly the old South African flag and most white residents wear khaki clothes. It is in this not-so-delightful little dorpie that I found myself yesterday after being assigned to join two of my darker-skinned colleagues to cover the second court appearance of the two men accused of murdering AWB leader Eugene Terre Blanche.

We got there and joined other local and foreign media in a virtual camp set up across the road from the Ventersdorp court house. Our lawyers arrived to lodge an application to have the matter held in open court because one of the accused is a minor, meaning that legally it should all be done behind closed doors. They all left quickly in their natty suits after it emerged that the teenager was abandoning his bail application because, for the first time in his life, he was being kept in a place where he could sleep on a bed, eat three meals a day, wear shoes, go to school and watch TV in the evenings. The media battle will go ahead on another day.
Limited seats in the tiny courtroom meant that only a few journalists could actually attend the court hearing of the older accused, so many of us were left outside in the Ventersdorp sun where we watched the local action. Union members participating in the municipal strike made use of the opportunity to toyi toyi in front of cameras.
And then AWB heavyweight Andre Visagie - yes, the tall Afrikaner who made news last week after storming out of that live TV interview with a show host who coined that delightful new phrase "Don't touch me on my studio" - came to address us.
It was a cringy experience. He spoke a load of rubbish and said stacks of offensive stuff like "we boere are not available as a brick for President Jacob Zuma to use in building his rainbow nation".
It was hot and dusty and fairly boring for the most part.
And we all get to go back for the next appearance in a month!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In labour

The Labour Court in Braamfontein has to rank high on the scale of tedious places to have to go in life. Like up there with prison or the dentist.
This is the spot where our South African Local Government Association lodged an urgent application to have the current ongoing municipal strike declared illegal, and hopefully get our rubbish collectors, electricity technicians and all the rest back to work. Their union was there to oppose, because they apparently like staying off work, causing chaos and general mayhem and dirtying up our cities.
So off I popped to the Labour Court in Braamfontein and sat on a wooden bench and waited for the matter to be called. A few radical workers in red t-shirts came to watch. It was hot. Very, very hot. The air conditioner was on full blast and made such a racket that it was difficult to hear anything. Some journalists nodded off in the hothouse-like conditions. Legal eagles stripped down virtually to the bare minimum, faces shone and the sweat flowed.
Then a cellphone started ringing. The Judge called for the owner to switch it off. The flustered owner sat there looking at her swanky, shiny little red phone with the trendiest of tunes emanating from it. She pressed buttons on it to no avail. The jaunty melody continued. She pressed frantically, tried to turn it off and looked completely helpless.
"Try and take the battery off," someone hissed.
Eventually it stopped.
Then we were suddenly called out.
Salga had apparently withdrawn their application. We attended a brief press conference in the lobby where all parties made it clear that the strike was to continue, the negotiations were ongoing but the court battle would happen on another day.
Ah yes - another day another dollar.
And so the rubbish builds up.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beetfroot, binny kigs and balancing it all out.

Being back at work today was tough.
I took some days off to rest and spent them at home. Going nowhere. I was feeling quite wrung out after one helluva hectic start start to the year and felt the need for a bit of time out from the big, bad world out there. And it was quite heavenly indeed. Unfortunately starting with a cold that saw cold sores battle their way up my nose, but then turning into gentle days filled with enough time to tidy my cupboards, get my car serviced, shop for a new bed throw and all the stuff I have been wanting to do for ages but just never got the chance.
And of course loads of time to bond and play and cuddle with my Little One. My just-turned-five-years old daughter who is the sunshine of my life. The little soul who loves big, long words yet still calls a feather a thedder, refers to beetroot as beetfroot and just simply cannot pronounce "guinea pig". They are called "binny kigs" in our house, in just the same firm way as Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" hit has been renamed "Bedroom Ants".
But it all came to an end today when I had to go back to work and put my partly-healed nose back to the grindstone. First task - get a grip on what's happening with the municipal strike and find out that Pikitup most definitely is not collecting rubbish today. Second job: get to the Joburg High Court to cover Judge Joffe's ruling on whether or not our former police chief has succeeded in getting his case thrown out of court or if he has a case to answer to.
He does. It all continues on Thursday.
And all the while I spend running after the breaking news of the day, I miss that little girl who giggles when tickled, is perplexed by the fact that Lady Gaga doesn't wear long pants or skirts over her brookies and who breaks out in the brightest, happiest smile when I arrive back home.